Celebrating the 4th

Hi there, faithful reader, and Happy 4th of July! I hope Kid Rock visits your house and leaves you all the good stuff 🙂

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Felix has been boycotting sleeping lately so he has me up bright and early this morning; I guess, trying to be optimistic, this way I can just celebrate for even longer!

We don’t go crazy about the 4th in our house; we typically will host a little cookout or something, and last year we were in the Adirondacks with our “nerd fam” and that was really fun. We rented a cabin on Fourth Lake and people all around the lake set off fireworks in addition to the regular display we could see from the beach. Many many years ago Dan and I, along with our friends Miranda and Kristin, chaperoned a trip sponsored by the rotary for local foreign exchange students. There were six chaperones in all and 93 students from all over the world. For the entire month of July we made a huge loop around the country, starting in Upstate NY and making our way through D.C., Myrtle Beach, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, up through California, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, then back through Niagra Falls and home (I’m glossing over the trip A LOT and really not doing it justice with this summary). It was an amazing experience and we got to see so many sites that America has to offer. And the food. So much good food all over this country. I love traveling specifically for that reason; I want to know a place, and the people who live there, through the food they consume. If you ever get a chance to go on a road trip (because work and money and the ‘rona are no longer an issue, of course) I really think it’s important to do so. America is HUGE and the people are so diverse, it’s really worth getting out there and talking with other Americans and meeting on their level. One of my next big vacation goals is to have our family fly out to the Pacific Northwest, rent a little RV, and drive through the national parks out there. Let me know if you’d like to join us! 😉

Dan and me at Newport Beach, Cali

This year for the 4th we’re taking it pretty easy, just having a few close friends over for food and fun and hopefully seeing some fireworks down the road. Nothing crazy but still lots of fun. I got some crazy cookies from the grocery store to try out for s’mores instead of plain ol’ graham crackers. What’s more American than improving on a tried and true favorite?! ‘MERICA.

We also have to finish watching Hamilton. Oh, Hamilton. Yeah. Have you heard of it? The Broadway SMASH that took us by storm and tickets were sold out forever and then when they were available they were like, $600?! Yep, that’s the one. It’s on Disney+ now. Amazing. Story time to explain my insane love for Hamilton: at the end of last school year (so June 2019) our US history teacher told me she had applied for a grant or something and got it, and she would be able to take our 11th grade students (and a handful of seniors) to see Hamilton on Broadway if they completed a project. This was through the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The only catch was that the show was in the fall and we’re a semestered school, so she would only have half of them at the time. Well, I also teach 11th grade (English 11) and told her (in a totally calm and not crazy-excited tone whatsoever) that if I could chaperone the trip I would happily co-teach and have my students do the project so they would also be eligible to attend the trip. The project itself was a lot of close reading primary source documents and looking at how the creator of the show, Lin-Manuel Miranda, used these source materials to write the songs. It actually worked out really well since close reading is a skill I teach anyway. It all fit perfectly.

For the project the students had to write an original song, poem, something creative, based off of the people, events, and documents of the founding era. They completed the projects, we scanned their work and sent it in, then the students performed for their classes. We picked which act we thought was the best from our students (roughly 70 kids, some worked in pairs or small groups) and two of my students wrote a song about the Boston Tea Party. We picked theirs as the best, recorded it, and sent it in to the grant people. The people at the institute would pick a few videos they really loved and those students would get to perform their original piece on stage at the show in front of all the other students (over 1,000 in attendance). Dear reader, my students got picked. Two of my students, along with 9 or 10 other acts, got to go back stage, meet some of the cast, perform their song, and we got sweet seats for the rest of the show. And I got to join them. This past year was my 12th year of teaching and I have to say, this was hands-down my proudest teaching moment. In addition to all that there was also a Q&A with some of the cast; I watched the entire time with my mouth slightly agape. Good lord I am awkward and hopeless…

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My students, Grace and Ellissa, and some crazy excited country bumpkin (me) waiting to go in the side door
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The stage at Hamilton

I was in band in high school and every fall we would see a Broadway show, and I always loved the experience. This was even better. I had goosebumps most of the time, I laughed, I cried, I was obsessed. To see history come alive and be presented by America today, it left me speechless. Dan got me the soundtrack for Christmas and I cry every time I listen to it. It was frustrating because I would try to describe it or explain my obsession to Dan and he just couldn’t understand it. We started watching it on Disney+ yesterday and again, I’m full of very obvious emotion, and now he gets it (sort of). If you haven’t watched it yet, do it. What better way to honor your country on its dang birthday than by watching the history of our independence played out through masterful lyricism and dynamite choreography?

I hope your 4th of July is full of all the good stuff. Talk soon! 😉

2 thoughts on “Celebrating the 4th

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  1. Have a happy 4th! That is so cool about your students and Hamilton – that is definitely a memory that will last them forever!

  2. Dani, we watched Hamilton last night. I absolutely loved it! I was hooked from the second it started until it ended. The cast was amazing, the music was incredible. Now I must go see a show on Broadway. I’ve never been. I can’t wait to discuss this with you all in person next weekend!!

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